August 20, 2013

The Grief Memoir: On Karen Green’s Bough Down 7


That Green’s text, like her life, is marked by an awareness of suffering — loss, grief, psychic alienation — makes Bough Down, as excruciating as it is, deeply satisfying.

August 15, 2013

The Darkness is Deep Indeed: On Javier Marías’s The Infatuations 4


Javier Marías may be the only significant working writer to also be a king. As the sovereign of Redonda, Marías is the honorary monarch. His two-decade reign has nearly entirely consisted of bestowing titles on various artists — John Ashbery is the Duke of Convexo, for example — as part of an effort at tongue-in-cheek recognition.

August 12, 2013

Over Here, Over There: Said Sayrafiezadeh’s Brief Encounters with the Enemy 0


This is not a book about there. It’s about here, what America feels like, here, and now, while at war.

August 9, 2013

A Literary Hedonist In The Classroom: On Professor Borges 7


We can’t help being impressed by the incredible array of books and authors Borges discusses in his fictions and his essays, but we must remember that he read them because he loved them, because when he opened up those volumes he felt the “secret portals of heaven” opening up over his head.

August 1, 2013

We Can’t Go On, We’ll Go On: William Gass’s Middle C 2


The main struggle is the question of whether or not the human race, given its bloody history, deserves to go on, to survive.

July 31, 2013

A Woman’s Unraveling: On Suzanne Rindell’s The Other Typist 0


The rapidly loosening mores of that time looked like freedom, but the level of risk that comes with freedom is never, of course, the same for everyone. Everyone who frequented the speakeasies of 1920s New York was taking a risk, but some had a net to catch them if they fell, and others didn’t.

July 26, 2013

Pride and Privilege: On Joanna Hershon’s A Dual Inheritance 1


A Dual Inheritance is that most pleasing of literary beasts: a novel of ideas wrapped up in a big, sudsy intergenerational saga of screwed-up families and soul-destroying love triangles.

July 23, 2013

Telling Stories Keeps Us Alive: Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby 3


The Faraway Nearby is a work of literary origami, amazing in its construction. Perfect, even.

July 19, 2013

The Spanish Prisoner Redux: On Finn Brunton’s Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet 0


A colorful assortment of international tradespeople, drug-pushers, swindlers, and fraudsters, spammers have become a familiar feature of our digital landscape.

July 18, 2013

Excavating and Restitching Myth: On Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane 4


When the supernatural is put aside, this is a tale of the horrors and uncertainty of growing up. The monsters are the trappings of maturity: adult’s fixations with money, sex, and power, and the lies they tell, especially the most important one of all — that adults know and understand the world.